The Blaffer Art Museum at the University of Houston is presenting the first museum survey exhibition of distinguished Houston-born artist and photographer Pam Francis (1954-2020). “Pam Francis: Photographs” is on view through April 26 in the Joanne Guest Wilson Gallery of the Museum. Visit the Blaffer Art Museum website for exhibition times and directions.
Francis was considered one of the top editorial and portrait photographers in Houston. The exhibition spans more than three decades of her art practice, from 1987-2020, assembling over 100 photographs and collecting artifacts that include the artist’s camera, selected slides, contact sheets, CDs, films and ephemera. The works in this exhibition are generously on loan from the Welcome Wilson, Sr. family. Francis is the daughter of Wilson, the former chairman of the University of Houston System Board of Regents.
“Throughout her career, Francis presented a sustained, eloquent and insightful exploration of portraiture. She was fearless, bold, and clearly communicated the vitality she derived from her subjects,” said Steven Matijcio, Jane Dale Owen Director & Chief Curator, Blaffer Art Museum.
Her work graced the covers of Texas Monthly with notable Houstonians including Dan Rather, former CBS Evening News anchor; Oscar Wyatt, founder and CEO of Coastal Corporation; as well as Texas Lt. Governor, William “Bill” Hobby, Jr. Dan Rather vividly remembers the great passion and enthusiasm she brought to their photo session.
He has stated, “She was a kind of walking, breathing, nuclear power plant of energy. She never asked me to pose or do anything unusual. She listened, she asked some questions, she struck up an immediate rapport with me and made me very, very comfortable.”
As chief photographer for the “Houston Texans Got Tickets” billboard campaigns, Francis captured iconic images of Lyle Lovett, Destiny’s Child, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard of ZZ Top, Roger Clemens and President George H.W. Bush and first lady Barbara Bush.
“You don’t just see the subject, you see the subject responding to Pam,” Lovett has said. “First and foremost, she was, technically, a great photographer. She knew it. But that’s not enough. Pam was able to bring herself to her knowledge of photography and it was a wonderful combination.”
Francis also served as lead photographer in Houston for “XXL,” a New York-based-hip-hop magazine. Francis took portraits of UGK’s (Underground Kingz- formed by Pimp C and Bun B) Grammy nominated album “Dirty Money.” Bun B appreciated her awareness of the moment with the early formation of Southern Rap in Houston.
“She was seeing that, all of a sudden, she was getting a lot of work to shoot rappers in Houston. I think she is just a great example of a Texan. Using her talent to benefit other Texans. She was trying to make all of us look the best that we can,” Bun B fondly recalled.
“While Francis’ portraits have been on the covers of Texas Monthly, Time, Business Week, XXL, Source and Sports Illustrated, her work has not yet had the critical attention to be comprehensively studied and celebrated until now,” said Christine Starkman, guest curator of the exhibition.
“Pam Francis: Photographs” is accompanied by a full-color monograph designed by Miko McGinty and printed by Trifolio Srl—the first dedicated to her work. The catalogue will feature essays by Teresa Hubbard, William and Bettye Nowlin Professor in Photography at the University of Texas at Austin; Keliy Anderson-Staley, associate professor of photography and digital media at UH, and Britt Thomas, interdisciplinary artist and lecturer at Sam Houston State University, as well as eleven interviews conducted by Starkman.
Francis was an alumna of UT Austin with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in photography and graphic design from the College of Fine Arts.
For more information about this exhibition, visit the Blaffer Art Museum website.